Saturday, March 20, 2010

O-o, Spaghetti Rings

Growing up, my mother cooked meals from scratch that often consisted of traditional, modern, and adapted Japanese dishes, so I was always envious of my friends who ate nifty foods like SpaghettiOs, Kraft macaroni and cheese, and Lunch Buckets.

I am not saying my childhood was devoid of local Hawaiian staples like Spam, Vienna sausages, and corned beef hash. What normal Hawaiian household doesn't have Spam in their cupboard? Frozen dinners, the ones in aluminum foil with the entree, vegetable side, and funky chocolate pudding, were a fun meal that my mother and I would share only when my father was away on business. :)

When I moved out on my own, Chef Boyardee and Kraft Mac n Cheese meals made me feel like I was cheating. Beefaroni over white rice is delicious as a guilty pleasure enjoyed once a year or less. Heartburn (read: growing old) sucks.

When Chef Michael Symon posted his version of SpaghettiOs, I was curious and had to try it out.

Not brains
Alphaghetti? SpaghettiABCs?

- excerpted recipe by Michael Symon posted on 02/12/2010

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 sprigs oregano
24 oz San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
1 bag anelletti (rings)
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
basil (optional)

1. Heat medium sauce pan over medium heat and add oil. When oil is hot add onion and sweat for 2 minutes with a large pinch of salt.
2. Add garlic and oregano, and sweat for 1 more minute.
3. Add tomatoes and bring to simmer. Simmer sauce for 30 minutes.
4. Put sauce through a food mill and strain back into pot.
5. Cook pasta in salted water. Take pasta out of water with strainer and add to sauce. Do not rinse pasta.
6. Bring sauce and pasta back up to simmer and add 2 oz of pasta water.
7. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, butter and oil. Check seasoning and serve.

For an adult version, add some fresh basil at the end once it is off the heat. About 6 torn leaves should do the trick.

There were two substitutions. I know, good grief, there were only 10 ingredients! I am positive the flavor did not suffer much from our substitutions.

1) We looked high and low, Trader Joe's, Giant Eagle, Miles Market, and Whole Foods. No one sold anelletti, so we used alphabet pasta instead. Of course, after we made the dish we found out they are available at Heinen's. Ah, well.
2) Parmigiano-Reggiano was used instead of Parmesan cheese, since that is what we had on hand. While this is splitting hairs, I wanted to mention it.

The spaghetti rings were similar to SpaghettiOs, but drier than I expected. If we do this again, we'll make sure the pasta is 2/3 done so the final product isn't served overcooked. Squishy pasta is quite unappetizing.

For an "adult" version, adding fresh basil, as Chef Symon suggests, as well as baby spinach, sweet Italian sausage, and crushed chili pepper would make this a quick and tasty weekday meal served alongside chopped salad with salumi.

- Cassaendra

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